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Fallen Leaves: Last Words on Life, Love, War, and God

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  734 ratings  ·  119 reviews
Praised as a “revelatory” book by The Wall Street Journal, this is the last and most personal work of Pulitzer Prize–winning author and historian Will Durant, discovered thirty-two years after his death.

The culmination of Will Durant’s sixty-plus years spent researching the philosophies, religions, arts, sciences, and civilizations from across the world, Fallen Leaves is t
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published December 9th 2014 by Simon Schuster
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Doug Zwick You can find book editor John Little's new film Fallen Leaves, featuring the last interview with Will and Ariel Durant here:…moreYou can find book editor John Little's new film Fallen Leaves, featuring the last interview with Will and Ariel Durant here:
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Kathy Cowie
3.5 stars -
Will Durant was an American writer, historian and philosopher. Over the course of his life, people asked for his personal take on things, and this book is the culmination of those thoughts. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this; a nice mix of timeless thoughts and ideas best understood in the context of the times.

I don’t usually quote from books I read for pleasure, but I found myself highlighting different parts — some for the lyrical writing or truisms, and others for the (thankfully)
Bryan Neuschwander
Aug 18, 2015 rated it liked it
I suspect the author of the sweeping eleven-volume series The Story of Civilization (1935-1975) is right about this:

"An effective approach to the problem of war will proceed, not by large and generous emotions, but by the specific study and patient adjustment of specific causes and disputes. Peace must be planned and organized as realistically as war--with provision for every factor, and prevision for every detail. This cannot be done in an occasional moment stolen by statesmen from internal aff
Barry Belmont
Dec 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A person will always be of their time and place even if they've synthesized so perfectly the times and places of so many others. Here, Will Durant, who I love as an author beyond measure, lays out his personal thoughts on many things worth having thoughts on, indeed almost everything worth having thoughts on. And as with anyone's personal thoughts on matters there is a lot to agree and disagree with here. Durant has a gift with words and a talent for connections. His joy is unsurpassed and his l ...more
Nov 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"I know that life is in its basis a mystery; a flowing river from an unseen source and in its development an infinite subtlety; a "a dome on many-colored glass", too complex for thought , much less for utterance.
And yet the thirst for unity draws me eternally on. To chart this wilderness of experience and history, to bring into focus the future, the unsteady light of the past, to bring into significance and purpose the chaos of sensation and desire, to discover the direction of life's majestic s
Feb 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Since college I always wanted to read his 11 volume "Story of Civilization", so when I saw Fallen Leaves in the local library I immediately recognized the authors name. I was thinking that anyone who took 40 years to research and write the story of all human time, would probable have something interesting to say in a couple hundred pages. I was not disappointed. Consider also that he lived through two world wars, the depression and two presidential assassinations. Durant was born the same time a ...more
Dec 20, 2016 rated it liked it
This is one tricky book to review. The content is like a pendulum of ideas; it shifts from highly conservative to surprisingly liberal in a matter of paragraphs (not even pages).

Some chapters are very well-written while others - especially the one on women - might leave the feminist in you shocked, and frankly, a bit flabbergasted. I was afraid my disappointment and anger at the highly conservative ideas about women might unfairly bring down my opinion of the entire book (because there are some
May 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-fail-20
Durant's writing in this book has a highly lyrical, declarative quality. The contents are ruminating thoughts widely ranged on life, history and philosophy. Its style shares little with that of the more measured, conversational style of Montaigne, or a carefully developed arguments as that of a Seneca.

Durant's philosophical anchor is a Life Force with an agnostic slant toward religious beliefs. His own philosopher is Spinoza, and his scientists are Darwin and other evolutionary scholars. His ph
Farhan Khalid
Oct 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
We like children because they are our unprecedented selves

Children and fools speak the truth and somehow they find happiness in their sincerity

See him, the newborn, dirty but marvelous, ridiculous in actuality, infinite in possibility, capable of that ultimate miracle—growth

Can you conceive it—that this queer bundle of sound and pain will come to know love, anxiety, prayer, suffering, creation, metaphysics, death?

He cries. He has been so long asleep in the quiet warm womb of his mother

Now sudde
Ashok Krishna
Dec 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“There was a time when I…”

“In our days…”

“In my days it used to be better…”

These are some of the utterances through which the elderly people alienate themselves from the others and start appearing like a bore. Nope, I am not talking against their privilege to that common nostalgia. It is how they start harping on about how things were different and better in ‘their days’ that drives people away. But not every old person becomes a bore though. Some of them, through their immense experience and wis
Pat Rolston
Jun 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
Will Durant takes stock of contemporary society and bears witness to the time in which he lived while providing his deeply personal outlook on life in his final masterpiece. It is the poetic Durant documenting a storybook childhood to the tumultuous era inclusive of our world wars and the immense forces that reveal his values and morals. His opinions and philosophy reflect the times and the man’s upbringing as a Catholic in an America that I barely recognise today.

As a man whose genius was appl
M Jahangir kz
May 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is my first book of will durrant.
This book are his final words on life, love war and God.
The author which given almost his entire life to analyzing, observing, history and different events as a whole, as a historian and a philosopher will durrant gives a full insight of his wisdom in this Book.
The book is riched with distilled wisdom, he has provided his last words on the topic mentioned, the book provide us a diverse and a unique perspective of life.
Brett Williams
May 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Reflections after 70 years of scholarship

Sometimes brilliant, sometimes too formal. A few chapters without relevance. Saving “The Insights of History” for last. Periodically, Durant provides wisdom only an alert, observant 94 year old can. His stages of life chapters were delightful and provided some comfort. Regrets of my youth were little different from the standard adolescent. His summary chart of age by column, with rows of single word descriptions was fun to score where I reside inte
Michael Rhode
Jan 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: library
Even though this is a new book, the essays are dated and many read poorly due to developments since Durant died. And even things that don't change are viewed through his lenses of old age's dislike of change and his longing for the certainties of his Catholic boyhood. His views on the role of women and the idea of premarital sex particularly illustrate problematic opinions for a modern reader.

That said, portions of the book resonate with me. From a chapter on middle age:

"We perceive, at first in
Dec 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Fallen Leaves" by Will Durant, was perhaps, his last academic creation.

Initially I struggled to read it; I kept reading it in random order. It took me some time but finally, I was drawn into it.

Durant has tried to share what he has all along tried to learn, understand and come to think, reflect and, not sure, know. He has painstakingly endeavoured to share what he was able to foresee or couldn't; for we all are prone to making errors of judgment, howsoever, we may be well read and experienced
Jan 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fallen Leaves is a compendium of thoughts from a lifetime of scholarship and reflection on the history of mankind. Simply put, Durant's prose is dazzling, and though some of his ideas now feel painfully dated (e.g. his comments on the roots of beauty in heterosexual love, and the rather parochial treatment of the role of females in society), the large majority are poignant, nuanced, and pithy.
The chapters on God and the soul are maybe my favourite. Though he seems to be a devoted secularist, Du
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars - this is beautiful writing on all the topics that concern mankind, which the author (a Pulitzer Prize and Medal of Freedom recipient) spent decades of work on and was nearly lost to history (found in an attic in 2011, decades after the author's death). Reading his comments on women and religion as simply a product of his time helps swallow a few passages that modern readers will raise their eyebrows at. Above all, a militant defense of education as the only true means of liberation (w ...more
Kellog Mcpussy
What a delightful read! Durant writes lyrically and beautifully. Through his writing, he seduces you to drop your guard, as I did when I read what he had to say on religion. Despite being a nonbeliever, I was quite intrigued by his outline for a non-divisive religious fellowship; should such a thing come to fruition, I would not mind being a member.

Certain views can appear quite dated or idealistic (especially his views on women, loosening morals and the role of education), but by and large it i
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Style meets substance in this collection of essays on everything from politics to art, distilled through a historian's lens. For me the charm of this book lay not so much in the ideas as in how they were expressed; Durant's way with words gives new life to timeworn thoughts as well as eloquent twists on prevailing truisms. Among my favorites is his take on the past that lives, even more than the present. To be sure, at times the language seemed to obfuscate rather than enhance the message, but o ...more
Mar 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The distilled wisdom of one of the wisest men of the 20th Century on all the important subjects. What more could you want?
He defines "wisdom" as "an application of experience to present problems, a view of the past in the light of the whole, a perspective of the moment in the vista of years past and years to come" (p. 136). No one had a better perspective of the years past than Will Durant, who chronicled them from the beginnings of civilization to the mid 19th Century and saw most of the 20th
Feb 03, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Childhood may be defined as the age of play; therefore some children are never young, and some adults are never old.". Will Durant, Fallen Leaves.

Was a little disappointed based on my very high expectations based on how many hours I spent with Will Durant reading my way through, "The Story of Civilization".

His memoir seemed dated and a little stale.
Dec 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A superb little book, written late in Durant's life and thought lost until recently. It consists of small essays on various topics that interested Durant, and us all, throughout his life, youth, middle age, old age, death, religion, morality, etc. A very good read. ...more
May 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Whether it is really written by great Will Durant or not, i liked it. Some issues were not related to our time specially when it came to women. There were some very fantastic sentenced which I loved in other chapters.
Brian Eshleman
Sep 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Bandages to convey serious thoughts without taking himself too seriously. He has a gift for the pithy phrase which is still penetrating in its insight. I am baffled have someone so smart and generally open minded can be so closed to the Gospel.
Yasir Malik
Nov 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Some excellent thoughts on issues we all face, war, death, life etc. Do not agree with all his views and find them a but inappropriate in this day especially with regards to women. Still would recommend to read and pick up some gems. Style is a bit difficult to read.
Jackie Smith
Dec 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is really interesting. I agree with much of Durant's thoughts especially on education and government, sadly they are much too utopian and sensible to ever be the reality. His thoughts on women are somewhat outdated to my mind, but all in all well worth reading. ...more
Apr 05, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Will Durant is a drop of water trying to analyze the sea. A collection of his thoughts on life, Love, War and God. I am and always will be in awe of his knowledge and the eloquence with which he wrote his thoughts. Brilliant!
Michael Logan
Is this real? I mean seriously! Would they lie and say it's a Durant book just to sell it?

Is this real?
Andrea Engle
Jan 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-read-2015
Eclectic, but very dated ... the wide-ranging musings of a very old man ... one can only hope to be so cogent in one's own nineties ... ...more
Mar 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Some of it was great, as expected, occasionally I was a little disappointed at some of his thinking, but it was written 30 years ago so .... Mostly this guy is a genius.
May 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, philosophy
Wonderful commentary on all aspects of life. Though you may not agree to some his solutions, his analysis as to the root of our societal problems cannot be faulted. Great book.
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William James Durant was a prolific American writer, historian, and philosopher. He is best known for the 11-volume The Story of Civilization, written in collaboration with his wife Ariel and published between 1935 and 1975. He was earlier noted for his book, The Story of Philosophy, written in 1926, which was considered "a groundbreaking work that helped to popularize philosophy."

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50 likes · 7 comments
“The fear of death is strangely mingled with the longing for repose.” 3 likes
“When I introspect I perceive not merely sensations and ideas but desire, will, ambition, and pride as vital phases of me. Spinoza was right: “desiderium ipsa essentia hominis”—desire is the very essence of man. We are living flames of desire until we admit final defeat. Will is desire expressed in ideas that become actions unless impeded by contrary or substitute desires and ideas. Character is the sum of our desires, fears, propensities, habits, abilities, and ideas.” 2 likes
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